Man: The New Angel

We’re part stone, part angel

A human being, says St. Gregory the Great, is in a way a representation of the whole universe. We have something in common with everything God created, from rocks to angels. 

Everything that exists falls into one of these classes: 

1. It exists, but does not live. 

2. It exists and lives, but does not feel. 

3. It exists and lives and feels, but does not understand or choose. 

4. It exists and lives and feels and understands and chooses. 

Stones exist, but they do not live. 

Trees both exist and live, but do not feel: we call the greenery the “life” of plants and trees, as Paul declares: “You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Cor. 15:36). 

Animals exist and live and feel, but they do not understand. 

Angels exist and live and feel, and they have knowledge by understanding. 

But we have it in common with stones to exist, with trees to live, with animals to feel, with angels to understand. So a human being is rightly called a “universe,” because in a way the whole universe is contained within us. 

–St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, 6.20 


If I have something in common with everything in the world around me—even the angels—doesn’t that give me the responsibility to take care of that world? How well am I taking care of my own little corner of it—my family and friends, for example? 


Guardian angels of all people and nations, you are ceaselessly vigilant, ever watching. Teach me to be diligent for the good of whatever in creation is under my protection.

Like the angels, but different 

St. Gregory Nazianzen says that we were created as a sort of second world, both earthly and heavenly. Like the angels we have a spiritual nature fit for praising God, but we also have a material nature that learns through suffering. 

The Creator, the Word took a body from matter that already existed, and placed his own breath in it. And the Word knew that this was an intelligent soul, and the image of God. 

Thus he made man as a sort of second world. He placed him, great in his littleness, on the earth—a new angel, a mixed worshiper, fully initiated into the visible creation, but only partially into the intellectual creation. He is earthly and heavenly, temporal yet immortal, visible yet intellectual, halfway between greatness and lowliness, combining spirit and flesh in one person—spirit because of the favor bestowed on him, flesh because of the height to which he has been raised— spirit so that he might continue to live and praise his Benefactor, flesh so that he might suffer, and by suffering remember and be corrected if he became proud of his greatness. 

He is a living creature trained here and moved elsewhere—and, to complete the mystery, deified by his inclination to God. 

–St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 38.11 


Do I appreciate the life I share in common with the angels? Do I understand the ways I differ from them? Do I glory in that difference? 


Holy Angel, help me to see that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, as are you and all my neighbors in Heaven and on Earth.

This article is taken from a chapter in A Year With the Angels by Mike Aquilina, which is available from TAN Books.



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